Listening to live music in the open air is one of life's pleasures, but replicating the sound quality of a concert hall outside is notoriously difficult. Now, a new mobile sound stage called Soundforms aims at making it much simpler to stage live concerts outside. According to its designers, architecture practice BFLS and engineering company Arup Acoustics, the new stage delivers 'the on-stage acoustics of a world-class concert hall outside' - and without the need for electric amplifiers.
The stage, which hosted its debut performance at London's docklands this week, is the idea of conductor and producer Mark Stephenson, who in 2009 formed a consortium of designers and technicians to build what they describe as 'the world's first mobile acoustic performance shell'.
At the launch event on Tuesday evening, musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra performed to a crowd gathered at London's docklands and, despite the regular interruption of planes taking off from the nearby London City Airport, the sound quality was astonishing. As well as improving the experience for the audience, the design, which resembles a shell, also makes it much easier for the musicians to hear themselves, and each other, play.
Made of an aluminium frame shaped into an 'acoustic peak' which stretches out over the front few rows of an audience, the stage has an interior of timber acoustic panels, and an inflatable weather-proof outer skin. It is also available with an integrated lighting system, which allows the interior and exterior to change colour and even display patterns.
The consortium behind the project includes Total Solutions Group, a company that has built stages for George Michael; engineers Arup Acoustics and Fineline; and Architen Landrell/Tensys, which worked on the NASA space programme. ES Global, which has built stages for the Rolling Stones and Elton John is responsible for building the stages.
The plan is to make Soundforms available in a range of sizes, with the largest capable of projecting to audiences of up to 40,000 at outdoor festivals. Unfortunately, there's little Soundforms can do about that other hazard of outdoor concerts - the rain.